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But I Thought It Would Be Easier

How hard can it be?
If someone else can do it
then I’m sure I can too.
I’ll give it a try.
It will be fun.
All I need is a little confidence and faith in myself.
I’ll put one foot in front of the other
One step at a time.
I’ll learn as I go.
I’ll google it.
I’ll ask
And watch others
I’ll be fine.
In fact, I’ll be great!
I think I can, I think I can…

Once started,
I felt elated,
excited,
challenged
and somewhat amused.

The amusement soon slipped into confusion.
I felt a little befuddled,
harried,
and fatigued.
Dismay followed.
Bewildered,
I said to myself
“I thought it would be easier.
I thought I could do this.”

I forgot my knee joint is stiff
and doesn’t bend.
I forgot my hearing loss also limits my balance.
I forgot I need 3 different pairs of eyeglasses,
and more sleep,
less food,
more quiet,
less drama.
I forgot.

I thought it would be easier!

 

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Habit Stacking

It was Saturday morning. I wanted to be home in my PJ’s making an amazing breakfast, listening to my favorite music and feeling that energy that only Saturday morning gives. But I wasn’t.

I was sitting in a small room with about 20 other people, all strangers to me, listening to a woman address positive ways to work through grief! I had recently lost my beloved grandson and I knew I needed help. But, Saturday morning!?! I felt more than a little resistant. I found myself saying something to myself that I vowed I would never say: “Maybe I’m too old for this kind of stuff!”

My mind just couldn’t stay focused. I sipped a cup of coffee, looked out the window, noticed the cute shoes of the woman sitting next to me, and only heard every third or fourth word the speaker said…until I heard her say ‘habit stacking’. I liked the sound of it, but didn’t have a clue what it meant.

Suddenly, she had my attention.

Habit stacking is when you add something new to an old habit”, she continued. “It’s when you want and need to make a change in your life but you know that you just aren’t up for any change because the best thing you have going for your sanity right now is your routine, the familiar everyday things that you do over and over that just keep you going, keep letting you know you are still alive. This is when habit stacking can work for you.”

She then added an illustration about her need to build strength in her legs at her stage in life ( she was somewhat past middle aged) as she had been losing her balance and was afraid of falling. She went on to say that she knew if she tried to join a gym or an exercise class that she would probably only go a week or two then drop out because she hated to exercise, and she hated gyms. She knew that after the newness wore off she wouldn’t make room for it in her schedule. So! Her solution was to add some sort of leg-strengthening exercise onto something she was already doing regularly and decided that her tooth brushing habit was the best opportunity. She had a tooth brushing routine that gave her two minutes of brushing on each quadrant of her mouth twice a day.  If she stood on one leg for the first two minutes, then changed legs for the second, went back to the first leg for the third, then the other leg for the fourth, it would add up to eight minutes of strengthening each leg every day. She would add this new necessary habit on to an already established habit and create a much needed change in her life…one minute at a time.

Brilliant idea, I thought, brilliant!

At my age and in my situation of adjustment to retirement (or refinement or to the Gran Finale of life), I didn’t welcome a lot of change. In fact, the routine of daily life, though sometimes boring, gave me a rhythm that felt secure. But I could use a change of mind and perspective, a more positive outlook.  I knew I needed  to ease my grief and free my body and Spirit from the affects of sadness and be more present in each moment instead of mulling over the ‘if only…’ and wallowing in denial of what had already happened and was unchangeable.

What daily ritual could I use to ground me in the present moment and re establish emotional balance without upsetting my routine too drastically?

One of my most profound habits is the early morning ritual of my one-and-a-half cups of coffee, sitting in my favorite corner with my dog and watching the daylight ease across the sky. What if I added to this habit? Instead of letting my mind wander, which eventually ends up focused on the pain of my loss, I purposely name 3 things I can see around me that bring feelings of gratitude. I begin to make my morning coffee time a time of connection with the tangible, material NOW and cultivate the positive mindset of gratitude at the same time.  When I finish, I light a candle for my grandson and wish him peace for the day.

“It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.” Confucius

 

 

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Getting Ready

Some days, many days, the most daunting task of the day is just getting ready…taking a shower, styling my hair, choosing my clothes. I often wonder, who decided that we changed into night clothes for bedtime and back into day clothes every morning? If I could, I would declare that as long as you’re covered sufficiently, day clothes can be night clothes and vise versa and the same clothes can be worn everyday until laundry day every week…not sure about the shower and hair.(?) I do remember, though, that as a youngster we only bathed once a week, usually on Saturday in preparation for Sunday church. Seemed to work pretty well, I think. (Maybe we had a higher tolerance of odors!:)

Oh well, it’s a tedious task sometimes, but always feels good once it happens. In fact, on the rare days that I don’t “get ready” and I choose to stay in my night clothes without a shower, etc., I usually regret it. I usually end up feeling restless by the end of the day and look back on an unproductive rather unsatisfying lazy day. There’s just something about that preparation that sets the tone for a more purposeful, energetic day. It’s sort of like once I’m “ready”, I’m good-to-go, open to anything that calls my name!

Yesterday, Easter Sunday, I listened to a sermon about “boldly plotting the resurrection”, about “getting ready” for something better. My heart was stirred as I realized I’m getting closer to the end of this physical life and  contemplated the “something better”, the next step in my life after death.  I was filled with anticipation as well as a sense of not knowing for sure what it was or how it would be. I know what my belief system and my faith describe as the next step. I know what my holy scriptures teach about the next life. I know that for sure my physical body will be shed and there will be no more necessary showers, hair styling or clothes choices! But can I really be ready if I don’t know for sure where I’m going?

When I was younger, I thought I could know for sure. I thought it was imperative that I knew for sure and it was my mission to make sure everyone else knew for sure too. As I lived my life, though, and allowed myself to question my beliefs alongside of my experiences, I realized I couldn’t know anything for sure. I could only hold my truth (my beliefs and my knowledge woven into my life experiences) loosely and keep my mind and my heart open each day for new understanding…to be a continuous seeker.

The pastor’s carefully chosen words lead me to contemplate the intentional “plotting” of my “resurrection”. I want to be ready and good-to-go when I hear my name called. And for me, it means that my spirit is strong and vibrant, that I’m ready to receive whats next without knowing exactly what it is but with a sense of wonder and awe. It means that I don’t fret about whether I’m in my night clothes or day clothes but that I wear grace and love and compassion lavishly and flamboyantly, giving  grace to others instead of impatience and irritation, looking with compassion on everything that is, giving generously of myself and my resources, and receiving gratefully from others.

Last week as I visited my mother and father’s graves, I had an acute awareness of all they were that continued to live on in and through me. Their bodies were definitely gone. Their spirits were definitely alive. I could feel their presence.

Today I will  do the best I can to attend to my physical self (I will shower and get dressed!) but I will also do my best to boldly plot that inevitable spiritual resurrection!

 

 

 

 

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Continuing the Rhythm in Life

At our age, there is quite a lot of talk about reinventing oneself. When I first considered this term, I liked it. It gave me a spark of hope. Hmmm…maybe I can be an artist this time, kind of like a new birth or a second chance. I’ll buy a lot of art supplies, get a few how-to books, maybe enroll in community art classes, turn our spare room into a studio, paint, draw (I LOVE mixed media!), sell my pieces on ETSY and become wealthy in  my old age! I have always wanted to say “I’m an Artist” when someone asks “What do you do?”. How exciting!

Well, I did go to the art supply shop and buy some supplies…an overwhelming experience as I wandered through rows and rows of options. I did listen to many  how-to webinars and videos. I gave it a shot, as best I could, before I knew I was on a less than fulfilling path to frustration. I was trying way too hard.

Reconsidering the whole idea of “reinvention”, I realized that the term itself causes my arm hairs to bristle with fright, as the somber image of Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde flash across my brain-screen! Reinvention just sounds way too serious to me…start from scratch? start over? How do I do that? Where does the ME go?

I finally decided I would rather consider what my next step in the continuum of being me is…what is the next note in this life-song of mine? What makes sense in tying this life all together…I don’t want to rub anything out. I want to see how the years fit together to bring me here and make me who I am today…I want to hear the beat of life around me but I want to keep the rhythm of my own song going.

“It’s all about the beat, about the beat, about the beat…” you know the song?

My beat is about the ordinary things I love to do each day, going at my own pace without hurry, keeping that regular beat as much as possible…doing mostly the same things each day with just a change-up once in a while to make it interesting. (I’m not intending to run for President, or become famous, or be outstandingly extraordinary!…or be an artist:)

But rhythm is inspite of the beat.  My best song is when I can be the kind of person I want to be, true to myself and my best self,  no matter what I’m doing, no matter how intense or slow or erratic or steady the beat. I hold my own special tune together.

Can I keep that rhythm of caring, of loving, of creativity, curiosity and generosity going each day …no matter what the beat?

Whats your beat? Do you thrive on the irregular or the steady 1-2-3-4? How would you describe your rhythm, your life-song?

“Rhythm represents our desire for order. Rhythm is like our own heartbeat; it gives us a sense of the pulsing of life.” www.sophia.org

 

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The Gran Finale of an Ordinary Life

Last week I wrote about the word retirement being an outdated term.  I suggested that for me the term Gran Finale seemed to fit this stage of life because I am living the culmination of all my life experiences and endeavoring to be the best me I ever was!

Well, the responses from some of our Vibrant Old Women readers were really interesting to me and I want to continue the conversation by addressing one of them.

Go back to the previous post and take a look at the Comment by Liz…she concluded that  Gran Finale sounds too ‘grand’ for my life, which is really very ordinary”.

I would guess that most of us would say that our lives are ordinary, that we live each day much like the one yesterday. We wake up, eat breakfast, have a quiet-time of some sort where we think about life or count our blessings or pray, dress for the day, make a to-do list of some sort, laundry, groceries, meal preparation, house cleaning, etc. Pretty ordinary.

Recently my grandson asked, “so, Granny, what have you been doing lately?” And even though I was thrilled to hear the interest from him, I couldn’t think of an interesting response. In fact, I couldn’t think of anything to say…”hmmm, nuthin’ I think, pretty much nuthin’!” At least it got a laugh from him, but for me it was a little startling. Really?!? I couldn’t think of one interesting thing to say that I have been doing?

Well, ordinary life is kinda like that…sometimes it feels like ‘nuthin’!

But if he would have asked me what I have been thinking about or what have I been learning or how I was feeling, I could have given him long paragraphs. For me this stage of life is giving me the opportunity to think, my own thoughts, to feel, my own feelings, and to learn things about myself and the world that I never took time to realize. And no one is looking over my shoulder to see if I’m “doing it right”.

One comment by Nancy a V.O.W. in St Paul, MN said it well for me when she posted on Facebook recently, “Solitude gives me an opportunity for thinking, reading, reflection, creativity. I think I have more solitude now than ever before in my lifetime. It’s a gift.”

Yesterday in church I suddenly heard the minister say, “…the ordinary found a way to be extraordinary…” and since I had been thinking about the concept of being ordinary, my ears perked! When does the ordinary become extraordinary?

When I am able to find meaning and pleasure, satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment in the everyday tasks and experiences of my life, its extraordinary. When I am able to breath deeply with gratitude for another ordinary day, not fret over mistakes made, or judge others for overlooking me or being different from me, it’s extraordinary. When I can laugh at the changes in my body, my wrinkled skin and whiskered chin and not feel embarrassed or defective, and when I can feel contentment over having  the time and need for an afternoon nap without quilt or defense, it’s extraordinary. When I think I am being my best self, it’s extraordinary!

And that’s why this stage in my very ordinary life feels like the Gran Finale. It’s me having the time and opportunity to be my best self, regardless of what I’m doing or not doing. The Gran Finale doesn’t have to be a BIG BOOM or an outrageous display. The Gran Finale is simply the best of the show.

 

William Martin, “The Parents Tao Te Ching” says it well, just substitute Vibrant Old Women or yourself for children …

“Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives.

Such striving may seem admirable, but it is a way of foolishness.

Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life.

Show them how to cry when pets and people die.

Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch a hand.

And make the ordinary come alive for them.

The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

Are you finding a way to be extraordinary in your ordinary life? How does it look for you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Retirement is an Outdated Term

I remember loving to spend the summers with my retired grandparents. There was such a wonderful rhythm to their lives. They did the same things over and over, and each week looked like the previous one. My grandfather was a retired hog breeder who now had time to read, take a walk everyday, smoke his pipe after each meal and stay up on the national news. My grandmother was the homemaker and continued her domestic chores of cleaning, doing the laundry, and preparing meals.  They didn’t own a car. They lived simply in an apartment. They had groceries delivered and didn’t venture far from home. They seemed to know their roles well and were in a very stable and predictable groove. This was their retirement.

Retirement looks quite different today. We have many choices. Travel is expected and our culture has created the term  snowbird for those of us who go south for the winter. There are retirement centers and retirement homes and retirement condos, retirement excursions, assisted living for retirees, discounted movies and Y memberships, Senior Discount Days at malls …

If you google “retirement photos” you will find mostly photos of couples, looking very fit and vibrant, basking on a beach, sitting by palm trees sipping cocktails, or playing golf. Very glamorous!

What comes to your mind when you hear the word retirement?

A V.O.W. friend of mine says when she hears the word “retirement”, she thinks of retiring to bed, and envisions sleeping. “I think I’ll retire for the night” kind of thing, only it’s “retire for a few years!” In fact, she says, for her the word has given her permission to sleep more, a little snooze mid-morning, an afternoon nap, then early to bed.

Every time I hear the word, I get a mental image of a cast-off, like old tires, used and tossed aside, maybe in the dump heap, piled high. There’s just no good place for them. Useless. Done. Finished. Retired!

I would like to get real about retirement. I would like to know who decided that the final stage of adult life should be called “retirement” and why. I would like to know for sure how it feels and looks for you.

First of all, many retirees are single, for various reasons, and live alone.

Second, many, maybe most, retirees don’t have an affluent bank account that enables lavish excursions to beach resorts and exotic places.

Third, leaving one’s career in order to “retire” creates a void in life for many of us who loved our work, and even though we have a long list of things we thought we wanted to do when we didn’t have to work, we just can’t get started on them so find ourselves a little bewildered.

You probably know by now, if you are a regular reader of Vibrant Old Woman, that I am never afraid to rename something, or reframe something that feels negative or doesn’t quite fit the situation. Often the simple act of renaming infuses new life into an old object or a worn out practice. I think we should experiment with doing just that with this old term retirement.

How does the Gran Finale of Life fit for you? For me it compares to the final act of a drama or opera, or the final chapter of a good novel. It does not disassociate itself from the other chapters or from the storyline. It is the time when all the pieces come together and tie things up, so to speak. It is the time when we say “Ah, I see who I am!” because we can see the continuum of events and hear the whole melody.

Changing the term gives me a sense of anticipation about how I’m going to define my final stage of life, my time without the 9 to 5, without the definition of a job title or designated role. I don’t need to fit into an already established concept. I can be free to declare to myself, mostly, that this is truly my time to live as I want to and be who I truly am.

I, for one, am going to invigorate my thinking about my life by retiring the term retirement. I’m not using it. From now on I’m declaring that I left my wonderful job several years ago to begin the Gran Finale of my life!

How about you? Are you retired? Or something else…way more wonderful?

 

 

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